Often, when I read an article on food waste, I see something like this:

‘Food waste makes up 12 percent of our landfills.’

That makes a lot of sense when you see this EPA by claudecf (via Creative Commons) Digging deeper, however, we learn that it’s actually more grim:

Food waste makes up 18 percent of landfill contents.

Here’s the deal: Food is 12 percent of what we throw away (waste “generated,” in EPA talk). Then the EPA factors in recycling for all of the waste materials.

Most other waste materials have decent recycling rates and food waste has an alarmingly low one–less than 3 percent. After that is figured in, food is 18 percent of the waste “discarded” (in EPAspeak).
In addition to being a more impressive figure, the food “discarded” is the key number because it represents the amount of methane (a greenhouse gas) emitted from landfills.

It’ll be interesting to see how the numbers change when the 2007 Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) data is released some time in November. Stay tuned…

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